The apartheid tour: 40 years on, former Lions stars recall

Forty decades ago the British and Irish Lions left for a divisive tour of South Africa, irrespective of the opposition of the British and Irish Governments and groups who have been in opposition to sporting get in touch with with the apartheid routine. 

Sportsmail’s legendary columnist Ian Wooldridge was between these who opposed it. 

Will Kelleher speaks to players who went for their sights of the tour then and now.

Clive Woodward (C) and the Lions went on a divisive tour of South Africa 40 years ago

Clive Woodward (C) and the Lions went on a divisive tour of South Africa 40 decades ago

Clive Woodward (England centre)

I wasn’t heading to adjust everything sitting down on my couch in Leicester. Of program apartheid was awful, but you never acquire everything from boycotting.

Throughout the ‘Stop the 1970 Tours’ protests I was 14 at university in north Wales, so I did not have numerous memories of that — but I did get some headache about heading in 1980.

It was nothing at all sinister but I was sent letters by the campaigner Peter Hain and other people, expressing I should not go.

The United states of america boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, which most likely meant the Lions have been less than a little significantly less scrutiny when they decided to tour South Africa.

Woodward was against the regime but didn't see anything to gain anything from boycotting

Woodward was in opposition to the routine but did not see everything to acquire everything from boycotting

No just one who was picked built a stance and didn’t go, but academics particularly have been less than enormous force not to tour. John Carleton, the England winger, lost his task as a trainer by heading.

My conclusion was not centered on personal ambition, but I did not want to be instructed what to do and considered the way to boost a place was to go there and say what you imagine once there.

I was 24 and hadn’t seriously been abroad or toured with England as it was my 1st 12 months of intercontinental rugby, so to go to South Africa was enormous.

I worked for Xerox, who authorized me leave. I loved South Africa and the people today, but it was alarming seeing signs indicating items like ‘white only beaches’.

I experienced a wonderful chat with just one of the few South African black players at the time, Errol Tobias. I privately asked him, ‘Are you happy we’re here?’ He stated, ‘Yes. You will split this down additional by staying here, conversing about it and educating people’. It reassured me that I’d built the correct phone.

The centre was 24 and hadn¿t really been abroad or toured with England before

The centre was 24 and hadn’t seriously been abroad or toured with England before 

The South Africans have been delighted we have been there, but the black followers wore crimson shirts and supported us in opposition to the white Springboks.

On a 3-thirty day period journey with eighteen matches which include four Exams, you received to know your team-mates well. I typically roomed with Welsh centre Ray Gravell — the funniest individual I have ever met in rugby, fully barmy!

He would generally appear in the mirror. ‘Clive, bach. Do I appear great these days?’ He nicknamed me ‘Soft Centre’. He didn’t imagine I was challenging enough or could tackle like him — akin to staying strike by a truck!

It trapped and decades later on, when I coached England and he worked for BBC Wales, each and every time we played Wales he would sneak up on me and smash me into the ground! Then he’d stand above me and say, ‘I instructed you you have been a tender centre!’ I dreaded it! He’d knock me around in eating places, pitches, tunnels, everything!

Woodward (L) says Ray Gravell (C) is the funniest person he's ever met in rugby

Woodward (L) states Ray Gravell (C) is the funniest individual he’s ever met in rugby 

He was an mag
nificent male who tragically died way far too early.

The highlight of the 1980 journey was going to Gary Participant at his spectacular ranch around Johannesburg with Andy Irvine, John Robbie and Peter Wheeler. I appreciate my golf, so it was fantastic.

He came out all in black, glove out of his back again pocket and he experienced this driver with a guide head weighing a ton.

He practised in entrance of us and then took his index and center finger and held it out horizontally. He stated, ‘If you can do this, you can have my ranch’. The position was really worth hundreds of thousands. It was unachievable, but his fingers have been so solid. He’d developed them up by squeezing tennis balls wherever he went.

(L-R): Peter Wheeler, John Robbie, Woodward and Andy Irvine meet Gary Player at his ranch

(L-R): Peter Wheeler, John Robbie, Woodward and Andy Irvine fulfill Gary Participant at his ranch 

We received all 14 midweek matches in opposition to solid groups like Western Province, Transvaal, Orange No cost State. I was not picked for the 1st Test, which we lost, and then played centre with Gravell for the next. We lost that, far too.

I lost us the 3rd. I was picked out of posture on the wing, which I was not joyful about, and tapped a ball into touch then fatefully turned my back again. I really should have booted it more. The Boks took a fast toss and scored to acquire.

I was seriously irritated to be dropped for the past Test, which the Lions received. I have no regrets at heading and have been numerous instances since — I truly considered it was the correct point to do, even now do.

To know what South Africa was like, then to observe Siya Kolisi carry the Globe Cup past November was incredible. Ideally they will get even more powerful, additional agent and we can enjoy a wonderful tour upcoming summertime.

Woodward has no regrets over going and still believes that it was the right thing to do

Woodward has no regrets around heading and even now thinks that it was the correct point to do

Andy Irvine (Scotland total back again)

I’d pulled my hamstring at the Hong Kong Sevens a thirty day period just before, but turned up in London in my blazer ready to vacation with the Lions.

For the 1st time we experienced a travelling health care provider. He analyzed me at the airport and stated, ‘You’ve received a wee little bit of a dilemma here still’, so I flew back again to Edinburgh. 50 % an hour immediately after the 1st Test the manager Syd Millar identified as expressing, ‘Get your package, we’re traveling you out tonight’.

Mike Slemen’s spouse experienced a pregnancy complication, so I replaced him. I played 3 Exams but tweaked my hamstring once more so didn’t educate through the week.

In 1974 I toured with my heroes Mike Gibson, Willie John McBride and Gareth Edwards and never considered of apartheid. For me, it was just one more protest I didn’t have an understanding of. I’d have absent to the moon if the Lions experienced picked me.

In 1980 it was unique. I roomed with John Robbie and we talked about it additional. He was incredibly a great deal in opposition to apartheid.

Andy Irvine admits he came back from the tour questioning whether it had been right to go

Andy Irvine admits he came back again from the tour questioning whether or not it experienced been correct to go

A lot more politically knowledgeable at 28, I came back again considering, ‘Maybe that was not the correct point to do’.

There was no travelling aid, maybe only a hundred and fifty or 200, so ninety nine for each cent of the followers have been patriotic, just one-eyed South Africans.

We turned cult heroes for the black followers. There was a corner devoted to ‘blacks only’ so we generally ran down to them to acknowledge their aid for us.

We could have drawn that collection 2-2, but they received three-1. Losing huge online games narrowly experienced an affect on the feelgood issue and a whole lot of lads have been mindful of whether or not it was the correct point to do to go.

It was just one of the past excursions to go to South Africa. The isolation that came later on will have to have experienced an affect on dashing up the adjust to democracy.

Had we not absent, would it have accelerated that? Potentially. But it was broader than rugby, clearly.

Irvine says he and his team-mates became cult heroes for the black fans in South Africa

Irvine states he and his team-mates turned cult heroes for the black followers in South Africa

John Robbie (Ireland scrum-half)

I considered I’d missed my Lions probability in 1977 as I broke my leg just before the journey, but in 1980 I played for the Barbarians in opposition to Cardiff and later on Syd Millar stated I was a Lions reserve.

Then I was invited by Ian Robertson to enjoy in Zimbabwe, Rhodesia. Warming up in Bulawayo, another person trapped their head in the place and stated, ‘Terry Holmes is injured. Play the recreation, then fly to South Africa’.

When I arrived Millar stated, ‘Even if you never enjoy you’re as a great deal a Lion as Willie John McBride’. I am acquiring goosebumps considering about it now.

I was rushed to Stellenbosch for a recreation, Mike Slemen lent me some socks and I sat on the bench for the sixth tour match, then the 1st Test a week later on!

I played seven matches, didn’t eliminate just one and showcased in the closing Test. I’d snuck on the tour and experienced my life’s ambition fulfilled.

An injury to Terry Holmes saw John Robbie fly out to South Africa to join the team

An personal injury to Terry Holmes observed John Robbie fly out to South Africa to be part of the team

Politics came when I went with Ireland the adhering to 12 months — I lost my task as a graduate trainee at Guinness.

In 1980, Liverpool’s Steve Heighway, Manchester United manager Dave Sexton and Viv Anderson have been around there coaching soccer. 1st Division soccer players have been like gods, but though staying at their hotel, people today came up to us for autographs.

Issues crept in on tour. I went to the University of Cape City — which they identified as ‘Moscow on the Hill’, as it was pretty radical by South African requirements — with Ollie Campbell to practise kicking. Chatting to students, you quickly felt there was additional to it.

In the hotel, a black soccer team instructed Billy Beaumont and I, ‘We’re incredibly let down in you’. We considered they meant that we’d lost the 1st Test. ‘No, you never have an understanding of. We’re let down in you coming’. It was not unpleasant, but a few hours later on they have been moved out.

We played in opposition to ‘multi-racial’ groups and went to hospitals, townships and colleges but now I realise it was incredibly phase-managed.

Each individual ground was jam-packed and we received all the tour online games. Versus a South African Invitation XV we scored a great test that went through about 30 pairs of fingers and Slemen scored.

It would have been lovely to have received the Test collection, but around the decades the final results turn into significantly less essential.

(L-R): Noel Murphy, Woodward and Robbie relax in the sea in Durban during a day off

(L-R): Noel Murphy, Woodward and Robbie chill out in the sea in Durban through a day off

With a enormous quantity of luck I went on to have a extended occupation on South African radio striving to hold these in electricity to account, so in a way it was destiny I went in 1980 — staying a Lion gave me currency.

I pretty much received a Springbok cap, far too. I sat on the bench four instances, but never received on.

A week immediately after I started off on radio in 1990 Nelson Mandela was unveiled, the place went bananas and my radio programme turned a strike. I only retired 3 decades ago.

Living in the new South Africa for 35 decades now, I would appreciate to say I’d refused to tour in 1980.

Still I went and it was a splendidly joyful tour — I have this wonderful contradiction in my everyday living. I’m slowly understanding to forgive myself.

There is a extended way to go to mend the place, but the recent Globe Cup acquire with Kolisi as captain was incredibly essential.

Gareth Davies (Wales fly-half)

I’d been to South Africa with Cardiff in 1979 and like Clive I experienced chatted to Errol Tobias, who stated we will have to arrive with the Lions as it would assistance battle apartheid.

Before we left me, Ireland’s Ollie Campbell, Wales’s Dai Richards and Terry Holmes experienced a few beers at the hotel and decided the upcoming early morning to run close to the golf program just before the flight.

We all pushed the pace striving to impress and Ollie ended up limping as he experienced a pebble in his coach but wouldn’t quit to just take it out, so he received a blister.

1 day, sitting down by the pool with Terry, the penny dropped how huge the Lions tour was. A incredibly beautiful blonde girl came up for a chat and I read some rustling in the bushes — it was a South African cameraman!

Gareth Davies was told he must come with the Lions as it would help fight apartheid

Gareth Davies was instructed he will have to arrive with the Lions as it would assistance battle apartheid

The upcoming day in the press it was, ‘This is what the Lions are up to’. They have been striving to journey us up.

In just one recreation Danie Gerber, the huge Boks centre, knocked me into upcoming week and I put my shoulder joint out. Luckily for us, with some injections I played in the next Test in Bloemfontein but twisted in a large tackle from Naas Botha
and tore medial knee ligaments.

I experienced packed a box for Fran Cotton, Terry Holmes, Dai Richards and Stuart Lane to just take as they have been heading household injured, but experienced to be part of them myself.

I went on two rebel outings with the Globe XV in 1983 and 1984 and was approached to enjoy for Western Province, but owing to the instability I didn’t go.

Touring with the Lions in 1980 was the major honour of my occupation. I never regret it.